Waiwaste Food Rescue co-ordinator Elise Sadler, collecting bread from a Masterton supermarket with Waiwaste volunteer Henriette Tulloch. PHOTOS/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

Wairarapa Midweek has partnered with Planalytics to shed light on food poverty in our region and highlight the efforts of those who are working to address the need.

Hayley Gastmeier

Enough food to feed an army on a regular basis is being saved from ending up in landfills.

Instead of going to waste, the rescued kai is being redistributed to Wairarapa individuals and whanau in need.

Since being set up in Masterton in 2015, Waiwaste Food Rescue has saved more than 183 tonnes of food – which according to the organisation equates to more than half a million meals.

To be precise, Waiwaste says it is responsible for rescuing enough food for 523,983 meals, contributing to a reduction of 142,765kg in greenhouse gas emissions.

On a sunny March morning, I joined Waiwaste co-ordinator Elise Sadler and volunteer Henriette Tulloch as they collected bread, milk, and fresh produce from Masterton supermarkets.

Every weekday, Waiwaste volunteers pick up food that is good enough to eat but not good enough to sell from supermarkets, cafes, bakeries, growers, and producers.

Food gathered is delivered to Masterton Foodbank for family food parcels, and to the Community Kitchen which cooks meals for people in emergency situations.

With Waiwaste branches also running in Carterton and Martinborough, Henriette is one of 25 volunteers working with the Masterton branch.

She has been volunteering for the organisation for three years and says it’s great to be a part of an initiative that reduces waste in a big way while also helping people who are in need.

After doing the rounds of various supermarket departments, both Elise’s and Henriette’s vehicles are jam-packed to the roof.

Waiwaste collects food that is good enough to eat but not sell and redistributes it to the community.

We unload the goods and weigh it all at Waiwaste’s Cricket St headquarters, also the site of Masterton Foodbank.

In just an hour, we have collected 300kg of food that would otherwise have been thrown out, including muffins, magnum ice creams, frozen chicken patties, nashi pears, nectarines, and avocados.

Elise notes how a large box of capsicums will be perfect for the Community Kitchen, where Henriette also volunteers as a cook.

Elise said Waiwaste was rescuing up to 1.5 tonnes of food each week in Masterton alone.

Much of it comes from Countdown, which operates nationwide under its “policy to donate food that is still edible to our community charity partners through the Countdown Food Rescue programme”.

Elise said it was great to see a corporate enterprise towing this line, and businesses in general “becoming a lot more aware of their waste management”.

“Every store, they all have different ways of dealing with their waste.”

She said some supermarkets donated less and instead opted to heavily reduce prices of items nearing their use-by dates.

Elise said this model made items more affordable and would benefit the people in need who were reluctant to ask for help.

Quite often the daily collection produced food surplus to foodbank and Community Kitchen requirements, so this was given to schools and the Wairarapa Resource Centre.

Waiwaste volunteers use their own vehicles, so the organisation is seeking sponsorship for an electric van.

Elise said an electric vehicle would help to reduce “food miles”, a unit of measurement that accounts for the transport of getting food from the producer to your plate.

Formerly a school principal in India, Elise said Waiwaste had a strong volunteer base and she would be looking to increase the organisation’s reach into education.

She praised the many businesses who were onboard with Waiwaste, but said there was still a lot of work to do.

“We’ve got a handle on the edible food, now the issue is the inedible food … we’ve still got a lot of food heading to the landfill in people’s rubbish and that’s a big problem.”

Elise said emissions from global food waste were four times as much as those produced by the aviation industry, and community composting and worm farming initiatives could help combat this.

Anyone keen to get involved with Waiwaste can contact Elise at coordinator@waiwaste.org.nz

Planalytics is a Greytown-based business providing research, analysis, facilitation and monitoring services to inform decision-making in the urban and community development sectors.

Waste Not, Want Not was commissioned by Connecting Communities Wairarapa and funded by Department for Internal Affairs and the Lottery Grants Board Te Puna Tahua.